Involving Service Users Through Digital Means to Enhance Interprofessional Learning

Involving Service Users Through Digital Means to Enhance Interprofessional Learning

Frances Gordon (Sheffield Hallam University, UK), Karen Booth (Sheffield Hallam University, UK) and Helen Bywater (Sheffield Hallam University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-889-0.ch011
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Abstract

This chapter will provide guidance for educational practice founded on theory and on the experience of involving service users and carers in student education. Whilst this is an accepted philosophy and practice it is not necessarily easy to achieve. There are numerous ways of including service users in education but the era of digital media has added a means of bringing the service user into the learning environment and of overcoming many of the barriers to their effective engagement. The Centre for Interprofessional e-learning (CIPeL) has been engaged in developing e-learning materials which address some of the barriers to interprofessional education and issues related to user involvement in education. This experience is outlined and some examples from practice are given.
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Background

The service user involvement movement has gained momentum over the last two decades (DoH, 2001). Increased access to knowledge and an increasingly customer focussed value base within society have both influenced the growing concept of consumerism as a basis for health and social care. The Patients’ Charter (DoH, 1991) attempted to transform traditional conceptualisations of the NHS patient as a passive recipient of what the health service had to offer to that of a discerning customer of the service. Although the Charter was discontinued as part of the changes to health services under the NHS Plan (DoH, 2000a) the underlying ethos of encouraging empowerment of citizens specifically in health and social care services was reiterated.

A natural extension of this movement is within the education of students for health and social care professions and several policy documents have extended service user involvement into education and training (DoH, 2000b; Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, 1997; Levin, 2004). The policy of user involvement in student learning represents a move away from the notion of professional knowledge as supreme towards the notion of the service user/carer as holding their own expert knowledge about their condition or situation and that those who use health and social services are well placed to illustrate to students concepts such as human rights, anti-oppressive practice and the promotion of equality. As Taylor (1997, p. 117) points out, “learning from service users challenges the whole notion of expertise, who holds it and on what basis”.

The contribution of service users to education is not new. Involvement of service users in the undergraduate education of nurses, midwives and health visitors (UKCC, 2000) and of social work students has been a requirement for some years (DoH, 2000a). There have been a variety of modes of involvement over many years from using the 'interesting' patient as teaching material to inviting the service user into the classroom. However, what has recently emerged is the recognition of the impact that service users can have on individual professional practice and perceptions (Levin, 2004) and that they can develop effective partnerships in service delivery and education (Barnes, 2000).

A further step is in interprofessional learning where user involvement in presenting ‘real’ life experiences helps to show students the importance of working interprofessionally with other disciplines and agencies to provide care that is truly focussed on people and their families. Essentially, the service user provides the link between theory and practice and enables students to look at their practice from a perspective beyond professional knowledge. This is especially important where collaboration between services and professionals is essential to the overall wellbeing of the service user.

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